Division of Water Resources Releases Decennial Abandonment List of Water Rights

Alan Ward stands at the Ewing Ditch headgate,

Here’s the release from the Colorado Division of Water Resources (Chris Arend):

The Colorado Division of Water Resources (DWR) released the Decennial Abandonment List of water rights [July 1, 2020], an important process of Colorado water law and Colorado’s system of administering our state’s water rights.

Every 10 years the Colorado Division of Water Resources is required by Colorado law to present a list of water rights that each Division Engineer has determined to meet the criteria of abandonment to the water court. “Abandonment” is defined as the termination of an absolute water right in whole or in part as a result of the intent of the owner to permanently discontinue the use of the water under that water right.

“The Decennial Abandonment is an important feature of Colorado water law that is beneficial to water users by providing more certainty,” said Kevin Rein, State Engineer and Director, Colorado Division of Water Resources. “Canceling these rights means that the water users did not use them for a sustained period of time and cannot begin using them again, which provides administrative stability on the stream to the benefit of active water rights.”

The abandonment list is carefully crafted every 10 years by the Division Engineers, who administer water rights in 7 different water basins throughout the state. The list is created by reviewing records of water diversions, conducting site visits, and completing other fact-based research.

After the abandonment list is published, notices are placed in local news outlets and a certified letter is sent to the last-known owner of the water right.

Any person wishing to object to the inclusion of a water right on the initial list may file a statement of objection in writing with the division engineer by July 1, 2021. An objection form is available on DWR’s website.

By December 31, 2021, the Division Engineer will file a revised abandonment list with the water court. Written protests may be submitted to the water court by June 30, 2022. The list of water rights to be abandoned will be finalized by the water court.

The Decennial Abandonment list is available on DWR’s website here.

Detailed timeline of Abandonment List process and relevant statutes.

@NWSMBRFC: Abnormally dry conditions to moderate #drought are ongoing across central and western portions of the #MissouriRiver Basin

A win for collaboration in the upper #ColoradoRiver — @AmericanRivers

Colorado River “Beginnings”. Photo: Brent Gardner-Smith/Aspen Journalism

From American Rivers (Ken Neubecker):

Signs of hope for the most over-tapped and heavily diverted river in Colorado

Historically, Colorado has had a love-hate relationship with the 1968 Wild & Scenic Rivers Act. While we have unarguably some of the wildest and most scenic rivers in America, Colorado has only one such designated section – the Cache la Poudre River above the city of Ft. Collins. New Jersey, a much smaller state with many fewer river miles, has five designated Wild & Scenic Rivers.

So why? The reason lies in the both real and perceived limitations such designation would place on how water is “developed,” and its various uses, across the state, including potential limitations on longstanding diversions for municipal and agricultural water needs. Unlike New Jersey, Colorado is an arid state where water is precious, and rivers often have been regarded as natural conduits for delivering and storing water that can be diverted and used, rather than as natural systems that need freedom and nurturing to thrive.

The Colorado River is a prime example, as the most over-tapped and heavily diverted river in the state.

Historical Colorado River between Granby and Hot Sulphur Springs

Yet In 2007, the Bureau of Land Management and White River National Forest found the upper Colorado River, just downstream from its source in Rocky Mountain National Park as “eligible” for designation as a part of the Wild and Scenic River system. This finding alarmed the Front Range water providers, who siphon large amounts of water across the continental divide to the cities and farms of the East Slope. It is commonly said that “80% of Colorado’s water falls as snow on the West Slope, while 80% of the people live on the East Slope.” The last thing Front Range water providers have wanted was another layer of federal restrictions that could curtail their ability to move more water to thirsty cities in the metropolitan corridor.

There has long been strong support for Wild & Scenic River designation from conservation groups and others on both sides of the divide. These efforts would help protect what are called Outstandingly Remarkable Values, or ORVs, which qualify a river as eligible for protection. ORVs may be related to fish, wildlife, geological, or recreational values. Now, in this newly emerging recreation economy, these ORV’s are the backbone of some of the States’ most important and valuable draws to tourism, recreation, and rural lifestyle. More recently, Front Range diverters have recognized the importance of these ORV’s not just to the West Slope headwater communities, but to the State as a whole. The recreational opportunities and businesses depending on white water rafting and fishing are a huge economic asset. The fact that this all exists within a series of beautiful and remote canyons doesn’t hurt either.

Over the past 12 years, a group of people involved in the upper Colorado was established to try and develop a plan, and later an associated process, to protect the various values of the river, along with West Slope economic needs, while retaining flexibility for Front Range water users. What emerged from this effort was a multi-stakeholder plan to protect the river while addressing each of these needs, and establishing metrics for evaluating the condition of the ORV’s along with a process for resolving potential problems, should the river begin to show increasing signs of stress. While taking considerable effort by everyone involved, the process is working.

In 2015, the BLM and Forest Service recognized this process as an alternative to a “suitability finding” for Wild & Scenic designation. This sparked a five year “provisional period” where all the interested parties could come back to the table to hammer out a final management plan. There was light at the end of the tunnel to help give the river the protection it deserves, while providing certainty for existing and future water users. If the collaborative planning failed, the Upper Colorado River would retain its suitability for W&S status.

The provisional period wrapped up in June with the adoption of the final, agreed-upon plan to evaluate, mediate, and provide solutions to protect the various values of the upper Colorado River, from the town of Kremmling all the way to Glenwood Springs.

Gore Canyon rafting via Blogspot.com

This plan is a “living” document, and will be for some time. For instance, work is still being done to finalize a plan to collect, analyze, and monitor data over a longer period for fish, insects and sediment levels. An endowment fund is providing long-term financial support, to continue to discuss topics around governance, finance, scientific monitoring, and other cooperative measures to regularly check-in on progress to keep the Plan working, and stakeholders accountable.

The Wild & Scenic Stakeholders Group and resulting plan is not far from a traditional, Federally authorized Wild & Scenic designation. The newly Amended and Restated Plan provides a detailed process for cooperative monitoring and management of the ORV’s. All of the stakeholders are committed to making sure the Plan succeeds.

It has taken 12 long years to get here, and the work certainly continues. The stakeholders have gotten to know each other, and most importantly have built a rapport of trust and engagement with one another. Yet with the overarching goal of protecting the upper Colorado for a wide variety of uses, while providing certainty and good health for the river itself, the efforts put into this process will benefit everyone involved for decades to come.

@BradUdall has updated his 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2019 #coriver #coloradoriver #aridification

Brad Udall: Here’s the latest version of my 4-Panel plot thru Water Year (Oct-Sep) of 2019 of the #coriver big reservoirs, natural flows, precipitation, and temperature. Data goes back or 1906 (or 1935 for reservoirs.) This updates previous work with
@GreatLakesPeck

Why some people argue we should find another name for Gore Range — The Mountain Town News

Big snows coated the Gore Range in March 2014. bberwyn photo.

With word that the Governor has appointed a Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board, Allen Best dug this post out of The Mountain Mail archives. Sir St. George Gore is the villain of this story:

Renaming of Gore Range gathers local support

Might less Gore be more in north-central Colorado? That’s the proposal from Summit County, where part of the county line is defined by the range of 13,000-foot peaks. It’s called the Gore Range.

There’s a Gore Creek that flows through Vail and then farther north, a Gore Canyon, where the Colorado River thrashes its way through the range, the steepest three or four miles of descent in the river’s 1,450 mile journey. There’s also a crossing, Gore Pass, and a brass plaque is affixed to a granite boulder remembers an Irish baronet after whom all these Gores are named.

The baronet, Sir St. George Gore, traveled to the United States in 1854 and hired Jim Bridger, the famous mountain man and guide, to show him the sights and lead him to rich hunting grounds.

It was an extravagant expedition. His entourage included a valet, an expert at tying flies, a dog-handler, 20 greyhounds and foxhounds, 100 horses, 20 yoke of oxen, and 4 Conestoga wagons, each pulled by 6 mules.

Jeff Mitton, a professor at the University of Colorado, in a 2010 op-ed in the Vail Daily, further noted that Gore had an arsenal of 75 rifles, a dozens shotguns and many pistols.

There were also abundant creature comforts: a carpet, a brass bedstead, a carved marble washstand, and a big bathtub. There were also enough men, 40 altogether, to create the hot water needed to make a bath in the wilderness, a luxury.

If Lord Gore, as he was remembered colloquially, suffered few wilderness discomforts, he caused great pain to the wildlife that came within range of his armory during his three years in the West. He claimed to have killed 2,000 bison, 1,600 deer and elk, and 105 bears.

In his first summer, he ventured as far as today’s Kremmling, but then spent the next two years in Wyoming, Montana and the Dakotas before returning across the Atlantic Ocean.

Shouldn’t this princely geography be named for somebody more deserving? Or maybe something altogether, perhaps a name given it by the Utes who lived there?

(Although it should be noted that when John Fremont traveled through the Blue River Valley in June 1844, he saw much evidence of Arapahoe Indians, too, and a few miles away, in South Park, turned down an invitation from the Utes to join in a battle with the Arapahoes).

Mitton, in his 2010 op-ed, proposed keeping the same name—but to honor a different Gore, as in the former U.S. vice president named Al, a Nobel Peace Prize winner for his efforts to heighten public awareness about climate change.

“All that we have to do is to mount a new plaque on the granite boulder on Gore Pass,” he said.

Now comes the efforts of Summit County resident Leon Joseph Littlebird, who has persuaded county officials to take up the cause.

“It’s one of the most beautiful and spectacular areas we have,” Littlebird recently told the Summit Daily News. “Considering Lord Gore was a pretty bad dude —the stories are really horrible, really scary —it would be great to see it recognized as what it really is, instead of for a guy like that.”

Summit County has adopted a resolution seeking a name change. It has received support from the Friends of the Eagles Nest Wilderness, a local group, and the Colorado Mountain Club. A meeting was planned for Monday night to take public input, including ideas on what the range should be named.

The final arbiter in such matters is the U.S. Board of Geographic Names, an agency nested within the U.S. Geological Survey. John Wesley Powell was second director of that agency, from 1891 to 1894. His name lingers on Mt. Powell, which is the range’s highest peak, at 13,586 feet.

Allen Best is a Colorado-based journalist who publishes an e-magazine called Big Pivots. Reach him at allen.best@comcast.net or 303.463.8630.